Not everyone would agree, but Dr. John Mark Reynolds demonstrates that Dickens makes a pretty convincing argument for basic feminism -- "the equal and full humanity of women and men before Providence" -- in Dombey and Son.
Radhika Jones, author of that excellent TIME article about the bicentennial, has started blogging about what she considers the ten greatest Dickens novels. She's already done 10 (Oliver Twist), 9 (Dombey and Son), 8 (Hard Times), and 7 (The Pickwick Papers). Start here and keep clicking to see all her posts so far.
We're getting a new Dickens adaptation from BBC One after all!
Now, it's not David Copperfield like Nina wanted, and it's not A Tale of Two Cities like I wanted. It's not even the previously mentioned Dombey and Son. It's Great Expectations. But still, this is a deliberate reversal of the "no more bonnet dramas" and "resting Dickens" talk that was bandied about not so very long ago, so I think it's a very good thing. And it shows they didn't decide to ignore Dickens's bicentennial as some of us feared they might.
I knew Danny Cohen was going to come through for us. I just knew it!
Today is the bicentennial of Charles Dickens's older sister, Frances "Fanny" Dickens Burnett, born October 28, 1810.
During their difficult childhood, Michael Slater writes, Fanny was Charles's "dear companion and confidante." She was also a musical prodigy who began attending the Royal Academy of Music at age 13, and at 14 won their silver medal and second prize for piano. She later taught there herself. (At one point she studied with a pupil of Beethoven's.)
Although young Charles felt bitter and envious that his parents were able to scrape together enough money for Fanny's education but not for his own, he still loved her dearly. Some of his female characters, including Florence Dombey, Fanny Scrooge, and the little girl in "A Child's Dream of a Star," are said to be at least partly based on her. And her son Henry Burnett, Jr., was the model for Tiny Tim and Paul Dombey.
Fanny died of consumption at age 38. A few weeks before her death, Dickens wrote to his friend John Forster, "I asked her whether she had any care or anxiety in the world. She said No, none. It was hard to die at such a time of life, but she had no alarm whatever in the prospect of the change; felt sure we should meet again in a better world; and although they had said she might rally for a time, did not really wish it. She said she was quite calm and happy, relied upon the mediation of Christ, and had no terror at all."
Dickens's troubled relationship with his father is featured in a new BBC4 documentary about fathers in fiction. Novelist and filmmaker Andrew Martin explains,
The one standard Victorian patriarch in Dickens is Dombey in Dombey and Son,
and his rigidity has calamitous results. Closer to the norm for Dickens
are William Dorrit and Mr Micawber, self-regarding, impecunious men,
prone to hysteria and immature compared with the young people around
them. They are modelled on Dickens's father, John, who sponged off his
son and was a source of constant exasperation. Dickens once wrote of
his father: "How slow he is growing to be a man."
I thought of titling this review "Don't Make Claude Angry. You Wouldn't Like Him When He's Angry."
But that's a little long for a post title.
I must say this is one of the finest Dickens feature film adaptations I've ever seen, and I've seen a few. The look, the atmosphere, the actors hit all the right notes. The story, for the most part, was very well adapted.
Not sure what to think about that one. It's true that, as the article says, there have already been an awful lot of David Copperfield adaptations. Now don't go whaling on me, Nibs; you know I love DC. :-) I truly do. It just seems strange that they would have chosen to do it yet again -- and when there's a feature film in the works, too. They must have known that they'd have success with whatever adaptation they chose to do (hello, Bleak House? Little Dorrit? Good numbers, lots of Emmys?). Wouldn't they? So why stick with the "warhorses"?
Well, no one seems to agree on the reason, and there's lots of "he said/they said," and it's all very mysterious. One thing is particularly worrisome, though: the BBC spokesman's remark about "resting" Dickens. I wonder how long this "rest" is supposed to last. They can't have forgotten already about the bicentennial coming up . . . can they?
My cousin, a fellow Dickensian, was here last night for a little Dickens party. We had pizza and brownies -- for a full-fledged Dickens party, I suppose, we should have had something like steak and kidney pie, but somehow we managed to do without it -- and watched the 1983 miniseries of Dombey and Son. Neither of us had seen it before, but Dombey is Annie's favorite Dickens novel (whereas I haven't read it in a long time), so she was able to give me some details about what was left out, what was changed, and what was true to the book.
On the whole, I think we both enjoyed it very much. The acting was really excellent -- with the exception of little Paul Dombey. I hate to criticize a child actor, but this one didn't put much into the part. In fact, by Annie's account, he and his sister seemed to have switched places, with Paul being the serious one in the family and Florence considerably more lighthearted.
I remembered the basic outline of the story, more or less, but there was an awful lot I'd forgotten. I really don't know why I've never yet read this one a second time, but now I'm dying to. I don't own a copy of the book -- haven't even been able to find it at B&N or Borders, so I may have to order it -- but after the movie last night I was skimming through it online, trying to find out more about what was originally in the book and what was exclusive to the movie. But some things were a given even before I looked. No one but Charles Dickens, bless him, could have come up with "Where are you staying, abomination?"
David Gates has a lovely essay in Newsweek about why he enjoys rereading books -- and many of the books he most enjoys rereading are Dickens books.
Above the table on which I'm now writing hangs an old framed print
showing Mr. Pickwick's street-smart servant, Sam Weller, prophetically
pointing out to his chubby little master—in tights, gaiters, and
spectacles—a vast, teeming mob of tiny figures: the characters Charles
Dickens was to create in the novels to come after The Pickwick Papers. I still haven't identified all of them, but I see Fagin and the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist, Little Nell and her grandfather from The Old Curiosity Shop, the sanctimonious Mr. Pecksniff from Martin Chuzzlewit, the choleric Major Bagstock from Dombey and Son, and Bob Cratchit from A Christmas Carol carrying Tiny Tim. Ah, and that must be the mad old dealer in secondhand clothes from David Copperfield.
His name, in what appears to be an odd self-tribute, is Charley—Dickens
names another madman in that same novel Mr. Dick—but I remember him
best, as you will if you've read the book, for his greeting to young
David: "Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want? Oh, my lungs and
liver, what do you want? Oh, goroo, goroo!" It's because I can't get
enough of characters like these that half my Dickens paperbacks now
have their covers held on with duct tape. . . .
I suspect that the most widely reread writers in English have been
Dickens, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen—hardly a month goes by without my
revisiting one of them—who combine the sleepy-time comforts of story
and character with all the challenge and complexity, the inexhaustible
newness, that anyone could ask for. I've taught them all in the
classroom, while in the bedroom their books have slipped from my hands
as their stories shaded into my dreams.
The whole piece is worth a read, but probably the best line of all -- a line that any lover of Dickens will appreciate, even though it refers to multiple authors -- is this one: "In a recent New York Times op-ed in defense of rereading,
Verlyn Klinkenborg lists some of his old favorites—he turns out to be a
Dickens hound too—and concludes: 'This is not a canon. This is a